When pandemic reality hits reality real estate shows
Stuck at home? HGTV and the ever-expanding universe of renovation and real estate shows are happy to accommodate — by serving up even more home time.
Since the novel coronavirus disrupted lives — and production schedules — the network has had to get creative to keep Americans tuned in to their favorite aspirational programs.
HGTV paused air dates for several shows. Others that had wrapped, or nearly concluded filming, launched on schedule — sometimes with hosts using the iPhone FaceTime feature to complete a few scenes.
“Anything that was shooting is of course on stop-down right now,” said Loren Ruch, HGTV group senior vice president of production and development. “I would guess that’s somewhere in the 20-30 series range.” Work continues, however, on pre- and post-production, virtual casting and development.
HGTV has also pulled shows from its vault for retooling — “creating fun top-10 lists, or shows that have different components than when you saw them originally,” said Ruch, whose network expects to air 650 hours of new content in 2020.
For example, you can soon peek inside the 1921 Hancock Park home owned by Drew Scott, one-half of the “Property Brothers,” and his wife Linda Phan. There, you’ll find Scott filming himself on his iPhone or GoPro-style camera as he delivers pithy commentary about past episodes of “Property Brothers: Forever Home” playing on his computer.
And while home flips have largely halted, renovation rainmaker Tarek El Moussa is “doing everything we can to get as many episodes out,” he said in reference to “Flipping 101 w/Tarek El Moussa,” his 14-episode HGTV series filmed in Southern California. The mid-season finale is scheduled for May 21.
Thanks to a drastically pared schedule, “I finally feel normal for once,” said El Moussa, when reached at the Costa Mesa home he shares with Heather Rae Young (a regular on Netflix’s docu-soap “Selling Sunset”). For example, the star canceled his in-person “Homemade Investor” real estate events, moving them to webinars.
With schedules in constant flux — the coronavirus and its repercussions largely determine timetables these days — a few HGTV shows have been delayed. Among them, Brittany Picolo-Ramos’ New Orleans-based “Selling the Big Easy,” which moved its April 10 premiere to October.
“We wanted to be sensitive to the fact that it doesn’t seem like a very fair representation of New Orleans, with what’s going on right now,” Ruch said. “We want to save it for a couple of months.”
In April, Louisiana grappled with what Gov. John Bel Edwards called a “jarring” surge in COVID-19 cases, with death rates higher than many other areas of the country.
For viewers craving escapist simplicity during anxious times, other HGTV shows have proved nearly irresistible. Ratings for the Laurel, Miss.-based “Home Town” “are through the roof,” said an HGTV publicist; the show’s fourth season concludes June 8.
Its spin-off, “Home Town Takeover” (in which hosts Ben and Erin Napier renovate an entire town), will air in 2021. But an announcement of the selected locale — picked from more than 5,000 submissions –– is on hold until “the timing is right,” Ruch said, so that “we are also sensitive to the state of our country.”
In California, some local shows fortuitously wrapped production just before Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19.
“We wrapped the day before the quarantine took effect,” said Netflix’s “Selling Sunset” principal Jason Oppenheim of West Hollywood-based Oppenheim Group. Season 2 will debut May 22.
Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” had been filming for nearly a year when it wrapped — with a finale party March 11. About 150 attended the event held at a $17.2 million Beverly Hills property.
“I mean, talk about crazy timing,” said series regular James Harris, who works for The Agency. The 12th season of the show will premiere June 16.
“Listing Impossible” would seem a prescient title for these times, given that the pandemic has drastically pared home sales and pushed open houses into virtual realms. The L.A.-based CNBC show concluded its first season March 15.
“The show is even more relevant today than it was when we launched it,” said series principal Aaron Kirman, who heads Compass’ Aaron Kirman Group. “If you watched my show, I was telling people that our markets are going to go down — I knew that it was time to have a market correction.
“What I didn’t realize was that correction was going to be a pandemic.”
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